University of Saskatchewan

September 16, 2014   

Clearing the Air

Ajay K. Dalai, I.Sc., B.Sc., B.Sc. Tech., M.Tech., Ph.D., P.Eng.


"The most exciting thing for me is the recognition for the Canada Research Chair. It allows us to begin work in several areas, mainly dealing with energy issues from the processing side - how do you get energy more economically, more environmentally-friendly. It is challenging and very exciting work."


1990, Ph.D. (Chemical Engineering), University of Saskatchewan
1984, M.Tech. (Chemical Engineering), Indian Institute Technology, India
1982, B.Sc. Tech. (Chemical Engineering), Nagpur University, India
1979, B.Sc. Hons (Chemistry), Utkal University, India
1977, I.Sc. (Chemistry), Utkal University, India


42 papers in refereed journals & proceedings
Over 54 papers presented at national & international conferences
Over 40 research reports to various funding agencies


One pending


11 graduate students
6 post-doctoral fellows
Currently mentoring 11


Canadian Catalysis Division Executive
Chair, North Saskatchewan Chapter, Chemical Institute of Canada
Co-organizer, 49th Canadian Chemical Engineering Conference (Saskatoon 1999)
Co-organizer, Symposium on Energy and Green Chemicals from Biomass, 51st Canadian Chemical Engineering Conference [Halifax 2001]
Editor, News letter, Canadian Catalysis Society
American Institute of Chemical Engineers
Canadian Society for Chemical Engineers
North American Catalysis Society
Association of Professional Engineers, Geologists & Geophysicists of Alberta
Association of Professional Engineers, Geoscientists of Saskatchewan
American Chemical Society Catalysis Society of India


  • Canada Research Chair in Bio-Energy and Environmentally-Friendly Chemical Processing, Tier 2
  • Petro-Can Young Innovator Award

Contact Information

Ajay Dalai
Phone: (306) 966-4768

Dr. Ajay K. Dalai

Canada Research Chair in Bio-Energy and Environmentally-Friendly Chemical Processing

Every year, Canada consumes 40 billion litres of diesel fuel; world consumption is 700 billion litres. Diesel emissions contain high levels of oxides of nitrogen and sulphur, which contribute to air pollution and health problems. Dr. Ajay Dalai, Canada Research Chair in Bio-Energy and Environmentally-Friendly Chemical Processing, believes there’s a better way to fuel the engines of prosperity.

“Bio-diesel has properties of regular diesel but it’s bio-based, not hydrocarbon based. We react vegetable oil from canola and other oilseeds mixed with an alcohol to produce the fuel,” Dr. Dalai says. “The reason we do this is that government regulations call for the sulphur content in diesel to be reduced from 500 parts per million (ppm) to 15 ppm by 2006, to significantly reduce sulphur dioxide emissions to the atmosphere. But when you remove the sulphur, the lubricity of the diesel fuel is drastically reduced.”

Lubricity, or how slippery the fuel is, has a direct impact on engine longevity. Dr. Dalai, an Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering at the University of Saskatchewan, has been working closely with the Department of Mechanical Engineering, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the Saskatchewan Canola Development Commission to create bio-diesel.

“We’ve found that if we add one per cent of bio-diesel to the regular diesel fuel, we can improve lubricity and engine longevity by 20 per cent. We and other researchers have found that adding canola methyl ester at a rate of 0.1-2 per cent can improve lubricity, reduce engine wear by 5-50 per cent and improve fuel economy anywhere from 3-10 per cent. Right now, bio-diesel costs 10 cents more per blended litre, so we are looking for ways to reduce that cost.”

Bio-diesel is one of many exciting research projects Dr. Dalai is pursuing in the Catalysis and Chemical Reactor Engineering Laboratories at the University.

“The major thrusts of our research are processing of heavy oil to produce conventional crude oil, and conversion of bio-mass to bio-energy,” he says. “It’s a thrust area all over the world to find cleaner fuel. When you burn hydrogen, for example, you basically get water so there’s no pollution. The challenge is how do we produce pure hydrogen cheaply.”

Dr. Dalai is researching several promising possibilities, including hydrogen production from carbon monoxide and water, and the production of hydrogen and synthesis gas, or ‘syngas’, from pulp and paper waste. He is also working on developing environmentally-friendly processing methods for improved, reformulated gasoline, a project for which he was recently honoured with the Petro-Canada Young Innovator Award.

“The impact of the research is tremendous in terms of combating pollution and finding alternate energy resources,” Dr. Dalai says. “The ultimate goal is to pilot test new products/processes and eventually commercialize them, but innovative research is needed in the laboratory before that can happen.”

Dr. Dalai’s remarkable successes are drawing interest from research institutes and universities around the world. He currently collaborates on different projects with the University of Calgary, National Research Council, Ottawa, Orenda Aerospace Corporation, Ottawa, Okayama University in Japan, Regional Research Laboratories and Indian Institute of Petroleum, India, as well as with Syncrude Canada Ltd., Imperial Oil Ltd., Petro-Canada Ltd. and Nova Chemicals Ltd.

The Canada Research Chair will allow Dr. Dalai to continue ground-breaking research in environmentally-friendly processing and the conversion of bio-mass to bio-energy. Ultimately, his contributions will help the world breathe a little easier.